As part of our mission to tackle inequities in cancer care for queer and trans folks we are always looking for ways to centre members of the LGBTQ2+ community affected by cancer. Our OG community partner, Mary Morgan, shaped Queering Cancer’s foundation and has left a lasting imprint on what we do. Since Mary passed away last year, we have felt the missing voice at the table and wanted to involve new voices and new perspectives, keeping true to our mission.
Enter Laura and Tristan! Like all good connections, our links with Laura and Tristan have come about organically, mutual contacts here and a sprinkle of coincidence there. We are fortunate, grateful and excited for them to join us! We did a Q&A so you can get to know them.
QC: Welcome Laura and Tristan! Tell us a bit about yourselves.
I am a queer, white, settler living in the unceded and traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. I am a spouse, and a parent, and life is full.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2020. I have completed cancer treatment and am now cancer free. However, I have a genetic mutation, which means an increased likelihood of developing cancer in the future.
My cancer journey has affected my understanding of gender. Cancer has shaken up my sense of who I am in my body, and how I experience gender. Having a gendered cancer diagnosis, I have a changed relationship to the word ‘woman’.
Among many things, I’m a transgender man, writer, speaker, stage 3C ovarian cancer survivor and clinical oncology social worker.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer about 18 years ago. While the tumour was very extensive, I ‘lucked out’ by having a rarer type of ovarian cancer (low grade serous) that usually has a better prognosis. At the time, the main treatment for it was debulking surgery. Otherwise, that type of ovarian cancer was known to be very resistive to systemic therapies, so chemotherapy wasn’t an option for me.
In addition to debulking of the tumour, I required a full hysterectomy, double oophorectomy, and removal of my omentum. There were some surgical complications and side effects which impact me to this day. My cancer surgery not only saved my life, it also relieved me of parts which contributed to so much gender dysphoria for far too long.
I started having CA125 tests done more regularly in the past couple of years to monitor for recurrence. I’m acutely aware how fortunate I am to still be kicking around. For that I am extremely grateful. I spent many years searching for someone like me, a transgender man with advanced staged ovarian cancer. I finally realized the best thing I could do, is be the person I needed way back when, and put myself out there so that others know they aren’t alone.
QC: Our mandate is to improve care for 2SLGBTQ+ folks affected by cancer. As a member of this community what do you think the priorities should be?
To provide awareness and education to professionals and organizations about how cancer creates a diversity of experiences and unique needs for 2SLGBTQ+ people and families.
To offer meaning, healing, and community to gender diverse and sexually diverse people who are living with, or living after cancer.
I want to work with Queering Cancer because I hope that for other people who received a cancer diagnosis and find it troubles their relationship to gender, I want them to know that they are not alone. Having cancer is isolating enough.
To continue to provide opportunities for, and amplify stories from 2SLGBTQ+ people (and their loved ones) of all ages, from all places, and all types and stages of cancer they are navigating. I know first-hand how transformative it can be to see someone else who can relate to what I’ve been through.
To help ensure cancer information and supports for 2SLGBTQ+ folks are available in as many languages and communication formats as possible.
We have some amazing opportunities to collaborate with all types of medical education and cancer care providers. We can help improve their understanding of 2SLGBTQ+ folks’ care needs and in turn help them provide better cancer care experiences.
QC: What do you do in your spare time? What do you do to relax and have fun? (Feel free to tell us a random fact…)
I have been doing frontline service work with marginalized communities for the last 15 years. My first graduate degree was in Theology and I am an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. I recently graduated with a Masters in Social Work. I continue to work in a non-profit organization serving HIV positive folks, and people at risk of HIV.
I recently joined Abreast in a Boat, the dragon boat movement for Breast Cancer survivors. Abreast in a Boat has been a positive force in my life, providing me with the opportunity to feel strong in my body, and be inspired by people who have lived full, rich lives despite cancer.
Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to relaxing. In the meantime, I’m a 2SLGBTQ+ representative for the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology’s Advocacy Committee, and 2SLGBTQ+ advisor for the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
I would rather be at a conference than on a beach. Well, I guess it depends who would be with me on the beach…but seriously, I love conferences! I’m a reluctant extrovert (aka I’m actually pretty introverted) and I’m allergic to mean people 😊
Random fact? Queering Cancer’s acronym is QC, and I live in Regina which is also known as the Queen City (QC for short), so I just think this collaboration is serendipity times a million 😊
I am so grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with Queering Cancer!